Ben Bruce: 'I Never Wanted to Be the Lead Singer Because I Can't Scream'

artist: asking alexandria date: 07/03/2014 category: interviews
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Ben Bruce: 'I Never Wanted to Be the Lead Singer Because I Can't Scream'
When this interview was first set up with Asking Alexandria songwriter/guitarist Ben Bruce and the call was placed to the English musician's house, there was no answer. Repeated calls elicited the same results and at a point in time the attempts were halted. When the band's label - Sumerian Records - was contacted and informed that Bruce was nowhere to be found, they responded by saying he had been up late the night before writing and working on a new record. This really sounded like code for "He had been up late the night before partying and carousing."

The interview was rescheduled several weeks later and when the call was placed, there was the all too familiar voice of Bruce's cellphone describing how that customer wasn't available. At this point, the interview was going to be permanently terminated. One final call was made when Ben picked up the phone and apologized for being in the other room and out earshot of the rings.

That preface was by way of saying that Ben Bruce was not who you think he was. He had been working late hours on the new album when the initial interview call was made. He was juggling the writing the new album - Bruce writes all the music and plays all the guitars on the Asking Alexandria albums - with the planning and preparation for an upcoming Mayhem Tour. He may done his share of partying in the past but this interview was handled by a serious and focused young guitar player with some very illuminating - and honest - observations about the metal world.

UG: You grew up in Dubai. Was there much of a music scene here?

BB: I moved there when I was about five or six years old with my family and I lived there until I was 17. It's funny and not a lot of people would expect this but Dubai actually had a really good metal and rock scene. When I was a kid growing up, I was in local bands and I was friends with all the local bands. We would have rock shows probably once a month. We would all get together and organize a show in a local hall or something. You'd be surprised for a local show there'd probably be about a thousand people turning up.

That's amazing.

Yeah, and then when people started realizing, "Oh, there is actually a rock scene here," they organized the big festival called Dubai Desert Rock Festival. The Rasmus came out and Megadeth and Iron Maiden. Killswitch Engage, As I Lay Dying and Machine Head and they had loads of bands coming out and it just grew from there. So the music scene in Dubai I was very much a part of and it definitely helped sculpt me to what I am today.

Which is perhaps why you can hear so many different elements in Asking Alexandria?

Yeah, it was cool. Because there was such a different variety of people living there. There were a lot of expats from English, American, Australian, Japanese and Arabs. The music was really quite interesting and there was a lot of bands that had loads of different mixtures of music in there like a lot of Arabic-sounding stuff. Very similar to System of a Down. It had that very Arabic vibe.

"The Irony of Your Perfection" got recorded while you were in Dubai?

It did, yeah. That was me and a bunch of school friends. The vocalist - James Murray who sings and screams on "The Irony of Your Perfection" - is actually the voice on a track from "Reckless & Relentless," our second studio album. It's a song called "Dedications" so we still kept in touch and stuff. Yeah, we wrote that in Dubai when I was about 15 or 16 years old.

What did you want that album to sound like?

Umm, I don't know 'cause I've always had such a huge variety of music I listened to. So it's been difficult for me to pinpoint what influences me. But I remember at the time when I was writing that record, I was listening to a lot of Funeral For A Friend and Underoath. A lot more like old school sort of screamo-y stuff mixed with a lot of August Burns Red and Protest the Hero. So it was a strange mixture of things I just kind of turned into its own style.

Even this early you can hear the twin-guitar thing on songs like "Gramophone Elegance" and "Bitter Revenge, Sweet Tragedy." You've always been a fan of the two-guitar approach?

I've always been a huge fan. I think I was really introduced to it by Iron Maiden. They were one of the first bands I heard growing up with all the dueling guitars and harmonies. And I said, "Holy sh-t. Like this is f--kin' sick."

You dug that sound?

I'm still a huge fan. I still sometimes keep up the harmony backup in the studio and I'll play a lick and I'll be, "Oh, sweet" and slam a harmony over it. Then it's like, "C'mon, dude. You can't put a harmony over everything." I'm like, "Why the f--k not? It's so cool."

Going back even earlier, you were digging on blues players like Eric Clapton and B. B. King?

Oh, of course. I'm a huge, huge blues fan. In my opinion, it's the best genre of music to have ever been created. I mean there's nothing more honest, passionate and raw than the blues in my opinion. I actually am getting two portraits tattooed on my back of Jimmy Page and Eric Clapton. Obviously Jimmy Page is not your classic blues player.

There was never the desire to form a more blues-based rock band? It was always going to be something much heavier?

Yeah, I mean like I said I listen to so much music it's just so difficult for me. I would love, love, love nothing more than to have a blues project. But at the same time it's very difficult juggling my time with Asking because I am a huge rock and metal fan. So obviously I love playing what I do in Asking.

If you do listen to certain songs and you really dig down and look into the leads and stuff, there's definitely the blues influences there. Like if I'm playing a guitar solo or a lead lick that's underlying or something then it's definitely in a blues scale. Just to kind of add the element there, which I guess not a lot of metal guitarists do. Hopefully one day I'll be able to do a blues album. My dad's actually a blues harp player so he's phenomenal and I'd love to do an album with him one day.

When you did the first Asking Alexandria album - "Stand Up and Scream" - in 2009, was this a huge step forward from what you'd done on "The Irony of Your Perfection"?

It was. It was a huge step for us obviously after "The Irony of Your Perfection." That particular group of dudes left me high and dry and they were like, "F--k this. It's not worth it. We're not going anywhere. We're broke. We're leaving."

How did that make you feel?

I was like, "OK, f--k." So I had to start from scratch, which is when I found all the guys who are in Asking now. The whole time I was searching for band members and stuff, I was listening to a lot of bands like Burden of a Day and The Devil Wears Prada and stuff like that. All these American bands that were coming up and out of the ashes and sort of playing post-hardcore music I guess you would call it.

Which is where you made the connection with Joey Sturgis who produced all those albums?

I looked on the back of all these records and I kept seeing Joey Sturgis. And I was like, "Who the f--k is this dude?" I really liked his work so I kind of made it my mission from day one before I even had the guys in the band to go and record with him. Actually we still see each other almost every day because obviously he's worked on all of our albums so far. We were just talking and he actually said to me, "You know I didn't even really want to work with you guys. You were that good" [this last comment is made in a very facetious tone].

Why did he end up working with you?

The reason he did was because we were British and he'd never worked with an international band before. We got to the studio and we probably weren't very good. We hadn't known each other very long with me and the boys and we hadn't practiced very long.

But you did know what you wanted Asking Alexandria to sound like on that first album?

We had the raw, initial idea of what we wanted Asking Alexandria to be. But we just needed someone to help us refine it and help build it and that's exactly what Joey did. He helped build this monster that we are today. He's still very, very close with us and helps us write all our records together.

It sounds like you've really developed an amazing relationship with him.

He makes sure if we come in with something sh-tty he'll go, "That's sh-t. You can do better."

"Final Episode (Let's Change the Channel)" was a really brutal song but it also had elements of electronica in there. Where did that come from?

Again, I think that's down to my f--kin' ADHD and not knowing what kind of music I love more than any other. I love so many different kinds of music like I said. I just want to try and include everything within one album, which is nigh on impossible. At that moment in my life I was 18 years old and I was going out clubbing a lot as you do. Well in England anyway that's the big thing to do.

Is that where you heard the electronica music?

I listened to a lot of trance and electronic music and stuff. I thought, "Wouldn't it be cool if you could mix the two?" I was like, "There's really no rules in music. I guess no one's gonna tell me I can't so I will."

Certainly there are no rules in writing your own music but the kind of fan listening to Asking Alexandria might not want to hear trance elements. Did you ever think about that?

I didn't. Because I feel the reason anyone becomes an artist or a true artist anyway isn't for fame and fortune. It's because they genuinely have a passion for creating and for playing and writing music. It's always been like that for me since day one. So I've never actually sat down and thought while I was writing songs, "Hmm, will other people enjoy this?" I've always just thought, "I really like this. I'm writing for me." I've just been very fortunate over the years that it just so happens there are millions of people around the world that happen to like what I like.

That is so encouraging to hear you talk like that. A lot of metal bands seem very aware of who their audience is and won't draw outside the lines as it were. They tend to sound the same.

Exactly. Oh, completely. Look at Black Sabbath and Motorhead - they started around the same time and it's arguable which one of those two bands started the New Wave of British Heavy Metal. But they were so different. They came out at the same time from the same country and yet were at completely different ends of the spectrum.

Forty years later, we're still listening to Black Sabbath and Iron Maiden. In 40 years' time, do you wonder about what metal bands will we be talking about?

I do. It's tough. I really don't think there are many - if any - bands we will be talking about in this specific genre. I guess we've got the Foo Fighters and such but again they're a completely different generation to now. They started a long time ago in the '90s with Nirvana and Dave Grohl was coming up and everything. And it's just like, "Who now is gonna be there and put the staple on today's genre? Who will we be talking about in 30 years' time?"

That doesn't seem like an unfair question because the true yardstick of any great band has always been longevity.

It's tough and I guess that's kinda my mission. My record label - who I love by the way and I'm very, very close to my label - and I are going through a bit of an argument at the moment. I'm handing in demos for the next record and they're like, "Nope. This is too different. You need to go back and write something similar to "Stand Up and Scream" or "Reckless & Relentless" and what people know you for."

How did you feel about that?

I was like, "No, I'm not gonna do that." Because like you said everyone starts to sound the same and they get very, very boring and very monotonous. I don't wanna be that guy. I wanna be the guy that's always one step ahead of the curve. None of our records to my opinion sound like the previous record. They change and they evolve each time and I'm not gonna stop doing that. Hopefully who knows? In 20 years time, people will still be talking about Asking and maybe we'll write that staple record that people still talk about in 20 years.

Because labels have changed so drastically from back in the day, you'd think they would give artists more autonomy than they used to.

I guess it's never gonna change. It's human nature. When you've had a successful record and it comes to a business standpoint, you're gonna wanna keep creating what made you all that money in the first place. Our first record "Stand Up and Scream" was hugely successful. I mean all of our records have been thankfully but "Stand Up and Scream" we've got gold records for that. From a business point of view it's like, "Wow, let's just keep doing that and making gold records and make loads of money."

But you don't see it that way?

From an artist's point of view you can't do that. You can't force the writing process. I wrote that record when I was f--kin' 17, 18 years old. Now that I'm 25, 26 I don't feel the same. I'm not gonna be able to rewrite that record nor would I ever want to. That chapter of my life is closed. It's done with. It is a shame the business has to come into play.

Why did you want to do dubstep remixes of your songs on the "Life Gone Wild" EP in 2010?

I just love that it's not expected. We did the "Life Wild" EP and the whole reason for that really was because we f--kin' love '80s rock and roll. We loved Skid Row and we did these two Skid Row covers ["18 and Life" and "Youth Gone Wild"] and we were like, "These are sick. Let's put these out." Our label loved the idea but thought it was kind of a stretch from what we regularly played at the time.

What did you think?

I said, "Of course it's not. It's all f--king rock and roll." Again it was "Who gives a sh-t? Music is music. I'll tell ya what - why don't we throw some dubstep in there too and really turn people's heads?" They were like, "Huh. You think that will work?" I was like, "Of course it will work. It's f--kin' music. Let's do it." And so we did it. It didn't really make sense - two '80s covers and a bunch of dubstep remixes but it was just kind of to prove a point. You know? It doesn't matter what's on a record. So long as the tunes are good, it shouldn't matter what genre you label them as. If you enjoy listening to it, you enjoy listening to it.

In 2011, you did the second album "Reckless & Relentless." You specifically wanted to bring together clean and growled vocals on a song like "Breathless?"

Even with the previous rendition of Asking Alexandria with "The Irony of Your Perfection," there was the screamed vocals and the soft singing vocals. Again, it's just a nice contrast. It's like, "How can something go from being so aggressive and so in your face and heavy to so melodic and uplifting or catchy? And make you wanna bop your head and sing along." It's just that contrast that makes it work it so well.

The video for "Dark Insanity" shows pills and alcohol and a very dark place. Did the band go through that kind of period?

That whole record cycle for us was pretty brutal. Like I said when we did "Stand Up and Scream," we were 17 to 19 years old and we got thrown in at the deep end. We got thrown out on tour a million miles away from him and we went through so much sh-t. And we were still growing up. We were still growing into young men at the time and still learning and going through our own sh-t. Being out on the road away from everyone you loved and not knowing anyone just really built up and built up and the band slipped into some sort of black abyss.

The image of a band on the road is a romantic one but touring can take its toll.

We were partying too hard and drinking way too much. Doing too many drugs and wrecking hotel rooms. It was your classic '80s f--kin' band. We were these young kids from England and we were reckless and it was terrible. That's where "Reckless & Relentless" was spawned from.

It's a very, very, very true story and an insight into our lives just before we recorded the record and then throughout that whole record cycle too. Which was the "Dear Insanity" video and "Through Sin + Self-Destruction," a short movie. We kinda wanted the visual aspects to be as honest as the record was rather than just do another stupid video with a bunch of dudes in a warehouse headbanging.

You were singing on "Dear Insanity"?

Yeah, with Danny.

Talking about singing, you're actually working on your own solo record?

Uh again, hah hah, it's a very, very strange record. I handed it into my label and they were like, "Uh, I see you doing more alternative rock radio stuff. I don't really expect this." I was like, "Yeah well, too bad. I didn't do this for you. I did this for me so I could do something outside of Asking that I don't perhaps get to explore as fully as I could do."

What does the music sound like?

There are songs in there that sound like Oasis and My Chemical Romance. There are piano ballads with strings. It's all over the place really. It ranges from influences like Oasis and Keane to the Fray to Bruno Mars. It's kind of all over the shop really.

You're able to get your songwriting ya ya's out here that you aren't able to in Asking?

Exactly. Like my label was saying, "I don't know. It's kind of all over the place." I said, "Yeah, but that's the point. That's why I'm doing a side project. I don't care if you put this out online for free and release a statement with it saying, 'These are songs I have to get off my chest. Throughout my years of touring with Asking, I've written these. I hope you enjoy it.' I don't care - put it out for free."

I have to get it out there and I have to get it off my chest. I feel like just because I've written and recorded them, it's not quite off my chest yet. I want to send them out into the world and I want to hear what people think. Even if people think it's f--king sh-t, I wanna know. If they like it, I wanna know.

You also did a cover of Florence + The Machine's "Shake It Out"?

Sumerian, our label, hit me up and asked me to do it and I was like, "This is weird. I kinda dig it. That's a cool idea. Who would have thought a dude in a rock/metal band would sit down and do a rendition of a Florence + the Machine song?" I liked it. It was a cool idea. Again with the contrast and everything.

So I got really drunk one night, sat in my studio and just did it. I had a good time with it. They've released it now as a Florence + The Machine tribute album. They got a bunch of other artists on the label to do songs as well. Most of which stuck with making the songs heavier as you would expect from heavy bands. But I tried to keep mine soft but make it my own as well.

Have you always liked to sing?

Yeah, I love singing. I have done since I can remember. My mom said I used to sit in my car seat as a baby and just sing along to the radio for hours and hour. To get me to sleep, she'd have to put an Elton John or Michael Jackson record on and I would just hum along and sing along until I fell asleep. It's just something I've always loved to do and I can't help it. Even if it's completely inappropriate at times. For instance, at my granddad's funeral a song came on and I just had to sing along. I was like, "Oops, sh-t. Sorry." It's something I really enjoy.

With Asking, did you know you weren't going to be the main singer?

Yeah, I never wanted to be the lead singer because quite frankly I can't scream. It's not anything I've ever really tried to do or am interested in doing. I don't wanna blow my voice out.

Playing guitar is obviously what you do first and foremost?

I love playing guitar and it's my first passion. I've been playing guitar for a long time. I'm mainly a songwriter I feel rather than a vocalist or even a guitarist. I love writing songs and I write best on my guitar.

In 2012, you released another EP called "Under the Influence: A Tribute to the Legends of Hard Rock." Why did you want to cover songs by Journey and Def Leppard?

I wasn't entirely happy with releasing that if I'm completely honest. Those were songs we've all grown up listening to and still listen to. Those are songs we love. We just recorded those for fun. We didn't put any effort into it and were just jamming and having a laugh. They were never supposed to be heard by anyone.

The EP was never meant to officially come out?

They were just for us. I guess it's kinda like practicing - if you push yourself to learn another artists's songs, you learn things perhaps in technique you never knew before and you research different boundaries. Especially for me as a songwriter, I know you can get stuck in the same habits and write the same way. It sort of opens up doors and you think, "Oh, I see what he did there." So that's what that was really for.

Why was it released?

Revolver gave us the front cover and said we have to provide them with songs no one has heard before. We were like, "Well we don't have any songs. Our album is out and we're in the middle of an album cycle. We don't have any. Sorry." Then our label was like, "Oh, well didn't you guys record a bunch of covers?" I was like, "Hmm, yeah. But never to be released. I was just f--kin' around."

They're not even particularly good. If you compare them to the Skid Row covers we did when we actually sat down and gave a sh-t because we knew we were releasing it, those to me are far, far better than the "Under the Influence" covers. I would love to one day redo those and do an '80s EP with just a bunch of covers and release it properly. So I could sleep at night and not be worried about the bullsh-t we released with that, hah hah hah.

Why did you record "From Death to Destiny" in multiple studios including a mobile setup in the back of your tour bus?

Honestly? Simply because we never get given any f--kin' time off. Our label is like, "OK, you have to do a new album now." I'm like, "OK, sweet. Are we gonna have any time off to write this?" They say, "No." I'm like, "Awesome. Thanks, guys." So rather than sitting down on a laptop and writing a bunch of bullsh-t, I thought, "F--k it. I'll take one of my paychecks and I'll buy a bus." So I bought this tour bus and I ripped out the whole back of the bus and turned it into a studio.

A real studio?

There's a vocal booth and a drumkit in there. There's cabs, mics and everything. I spent a lot of money doing this. I was like, "F--k you guys. You're not gonna give us time off? I'm gonna bring the studio with me." Yeah, now we have a fully functioning studio. Then of course we got off tour and we hadn't finished writing so we had to find studios off tour and then we went back on tour. It was just in and out of studios all over the place. It was pretty crazy.

Why did you bring in David Bendeth [As I Lay Dying, Of Mice and Men] to mix From Death to Destiny?

Honestly, I don't know. I think we just needed to mix something up for the third record. We needed to change something and I didn't know what it was. We'd been with Joey for so long and it just sort of came to a head and we're like, "OK, why don't we have someone else mix it?" Obviously Joey still produced and recorded it and we thought we would try out someone else mixing it.

What was that like working with David Bendeth?

We'd been talking to him for quite a while and even before we recorded this record, he came out on the road for a few days just to meet us. We jammed with him for a while during the writing course of this album so it was kind of that idea from the get-go. Bendeth has done some fantastic records from Breaking Benjamin and Paramore to As I Lay Dying.

He obviously understands this type of music.

All of a sudden it comes out Bring Me the Horizon is recording with him and Of Mice and Men are recording with him. We were like, "God f--king dammit, dude." Now everyone that we're kind of compared to is starting to go to Bendeth as well, which is really quite frustrating because we were trying to do something different and stand out a bit.

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery so they say.

I still don't know how it happened. If it was just a coincidence or what. I don't know. It really annoyed me. I was like, "Goddammit," hah hah.

Do you think there were more guitar solos on "From Death to Destiny" than you'd done before?

If you listen to the "Stand Up and Scream" and "Reckless & Relentless," there are a lot of leads in those albums too that are just buried in the mix, which again is quite frustrating.

That is true.

There's no real solos per se but there's definitely a lot of lead work. And on this one, I just kind of wanted it to be more prominent. I was like, "I'll put a few leads in there that have to be taken as guitar solos so they can't be buried in the mix. Otherwise the music's gonna sound boring and bland." So it was kind of a way to just show I can play leads. Because if you listen to "Reckless & Relentless" there's solos in there. If you listen to "Another Bottle Down," all throughout the chorus there's solos. Same with "Closure" and "Someone, Somewhere." But they just get buried in the mix every time and I was like, "Goddammit, I can play lead. I wanna put some f--kin' lead on there."

"From Death to Destiny" was your biggest selling record to date. Did that tell you, "Yes, we're heading in the right direction?"

Uh, yeah. Like I say when the label turns 'round and says, "We need to write something more like the first album," it just gives me more strength to stand on my legs and say, "No, I don't need to. People are still responding very well to this new style." Yes it is different but I think people appreciate that.

It is encouraging to think that a band's hardcore fans will follow them wherever they go musically.

There are still people who go, "Ooh, why did you change so much? I miss 'Stand Up and Scream.'" It's like, "Well go f--kin' listen to 'Stand Up and Scream' then. If we rewrote that record and sounded like that, you'd be the first person moaning going, 'Uh, you haven't progressed at all. You're just rehashing the same old tricks.'" There's no winning those people so you kind of just have to ignore them. And hope along the way more people hear your band and say, "Oh, I like what this guy's doing. I can relate to this. I enjoy it."

"The Death of Me" was a great song and a great showcase for Danny Worsnop's vocals.

Yeah, he's really come into his own. He's really found his voice now. A lot of people again are like, "Uh, Danny sounds like he does now because he tore his vocal cords and has wrecked his voice." It's like, "No, man. Danny has spent years and years practicing and refining his voice and his vocal techniques because this is what he wants to sound like. He's been teaching himself since day one and now he's finally got it."

Do you think you can hear Danny's progression even more on this new album?

The new songs I've been writing again I think are just some of most raw and passionate songs he's ever done. Yes, some of them are very, very heavy but again even just vocally, you can hear the aggression and the passion and even the pain behind a lot of the vocals.

What sometimes gets overlooked is how good a rhythm section bassist Sam Bettley and drummer James Cassels are.

James is just phenomenal. I always say he's probably the only decent musician in this band. He's out of this world and he still blows my mind. It's still an absolute privilege working with him every day. I watch him and I'm like, "Goddamn, dude. You are f--king good. What are you doing here with me?"

You're still in the early stages of working on the next Asking Alexandria record?

Again revisiting what we've said many times in this interview, I'm so ADHD with my music. I'm not struggling to write for this record but I'm kind of struggling to hold the reins back.

In what way?

So far I've got songs written that are as heavy and brutal as Slipknot. Just completely in your face, raw, heavy, angry pissed off songs. And then I've got songs that are really, really heartfelt and really slow and very similar to Metallica's "Nothing Else Matters." Then I've got songs that could be on an Avenged Sevenfold record or a Guns N' Roses record. It's all over the place right now.

When you say you're holding the reins back, you're talking about finding a direction for the album?

I'm trying to make up my mind, "Do I wanna stick to one of these styles and write the record like that?" Or do I just say, "F--k it" and create a record that doesn't really have a set genre and every song brings its own element to the table. I think honestly that's where I'm headed with this album.

That's a hard choice but ultimately you have to please yourself, right?

Yeah, and I get criticized a lot. The guys from Guitar World, I've done loads of interviews with them, which I'm really thankful for. I've had the front cover and stuff and I'm like, "Oh, this is great." But I get a lot of stick [criticism] from I don't know, I guess you'd call them true metal guitarists.

In what way?

I don't f--king shred around my fretboard at a million miles an hour because it doesn't interest me. It's not the kind of player I am. I really wish people would sit down and actually analyze the music I'm playing and creating with the guys in Asking and realize, "Oh shit, it's really not as simplistic as people think."

I am very much for less is more so in that sense it is simplistic. But if you actually listen to the breakdown of the songs and see how many elements are in there and you sit down and take it all in, I think a lot of people would be shocked.

You're talking about the importance of the song versus the playing and the songwriting always comes first.

Yeah, it just doesn't interest me. It's kind of like a d-ck measuring contest. It's like, "Look how f--king fast I can do it." But it's, "Ah well, slow and steady wins the race, buddy."

How would you describe what you and Cameron Liddell do in Asking Alexandria?

Actually Cameron doesn't record on the records.

That was a stupid question.

No, no. It's fine. Like I said I'm the main songwriter and that's why I love working with Cameron and why it's so good. He doesn't question what I'm writing whereas a lot of people probably would. They would sit down and tell me, "You can't go into this soft, pretty bit right after you played that huge, monstrous breakdown." He just trusts me and lets me do my thing and then we'll sit down after the recording and he'll learn his parts. It's a great way for me personally to be able to write and not be stifled by someone that doesn't understand what I'm trying to do.

Talking about shredding, you play an Ibanez?

Yes, I am. They've been absolutely phenomenal. I remember signing a contract with them a few years ago and the deal was I was to get one custom-built guitar to my specifics and one stock guitar. So far they've built me like 10 guitars. I must have gotten 30 stock guitars out of them and they're just so supportive. They're great, great guys and the best guitars ever.

What kind of guitars had you been playing?

Growing up I was a big PRS fan and a big Gibson fan. I still have the very first PRS I ever got given to me by my granddad on my 18th birthday. It's just a beautiful guitar and it sounds so warm. You can almost hear the wood breathing through that guitar. And then it's the same with the Gibsons.

Were you aware of Ibanez back in the day?

I was never a huge fan of Ibanez growing up. They had the thin neck and were really light and it didn't feel like you were really playing a guitar. I wasn't really into that and I told them that. I was honest from the get-go when I started talking to them. Now all my custom guitars are awesome. They build the necks to be the same as a Gibson Les Paul Studio so they're nice and fat and bulky. The guitars are heavier than their normal guitars so it actually feels like there's something around my neck. Yeah, they're very, very warm sounding and they've been a great company to work with.

When you're in the studio are you experimenting with different tones and trying all kinds of stuff?

Oh, definitely without a doubt. It really depends on what the song calls for. I definitely have my go-to stuff for certain things. If I really want something to sound warm, I always try and use my PRS Custom 22 through my Hughes & Kettner MK II head. I think that head is just gorgeous. It's not very aggressive so if you're trying to play some of the heavier riffs with that head, I mean you can pull it off but it doesn't deliver that anger you would want it to. Like a Peavey head does, which is what we use live.

Do you ever reference a guitar tone by thinking how one of your guitar heroes might approach that sound?

I mean I definitely do but my goal is never to sound like those tones. It's to sound bigger and better. If I think a guitar tone is f--kin' badass like for instance Zakk Wylde has a sick, f--kin' tone, I think, "That's f--kin' cool. I wanna sound like that. Well, no, hang on - he's on 10 and I'm gonna crank mine to 11. F--k you." But it's definitely a starting point and I mean everyone does it.

Guitar players are always chasing the ultimate tone.

You're listening to a record and think, "Holy sh-t. How did they get that sound?" You kind of want to recreate it but not steal it. So I guess it's just very trial and error. It's kind of sh-tty because there's a lot of - I shouldn't say sh-tty because I guess it's cool for kids and stuff and people in the studio - plug ins and stuff now where you can just buy someone's tone.

So you don't have to work, which like I said I think if you're an engineer and you're in the studio and you've got a young band that wants to sound like this then it's awesome. But for me it kind of takes a lot of the fun away from it. Sitting down with a head and with different guitars, different mics and different cabs and working really, really hard to create something of your own.

You'll be heading out on the Mayhem Tour?

Yes, I'm really, really excited. We did Mayhem a few years ago and it was probably one of my favorite tours I've been on. This year we're back and we're third from the main acts Avenged Sevenfold and Korn then us on the main stage. Very, very excited. Gonna be playing a bunch of songs off "From Death to Destiny" including "Moving On," which we've never actually played live before I'm excited about that.

Will you play any songs from the upcoming album?

No, we're not gonna play any new tunes just yet 'cause we're still on the "From Death to Destiny" cycle. I'm a bit anal about new tunes. We've never actually played a new tune live before we ever released a recording of it.

Why?

Because I don't want people to get the wrong impression. People record it on their phones and upload it to YouTube and it's gonna sound like dogsh-t. I want people's first impression to be how I intended it to be from the studio.

Interview by Steven Rosen
Ultimate-Guitar.Com 2014
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